Race report: Long Beach Snowflake Run

Pouring it on for the finish (center, in black)
Today’s race (Long Beach Snowflake 4 Mile Run): 33:50 (8:28 pace)

For the second year in row, the snow has forced Snowflake Run participants off of the boardwalk. Last year it was an issue of volume, there was so much snow and ice on the boardwalk that it became both dangerous and impassible. This year it was a steady but light snowfall that would have been too slippery for fast running. So, once again, we found ourselves lining up on Broadway for this four mile race.

Last weekend I ran intervals on the treadmill in the hope of being ready to go out hard this weekend. That must have helped because I achieved a new 4 mile PR this morning and beat my prior PR by over a minute. Team Emerging Runner accompanied me this year and, aside from some difficulties finding a parking spot, the event went very well.

We arrived about 30 minutes from start time and when I walked into the gym to pick up my race number, I was surprised to see so many people milling around. The room smelled strongly of perspiration and adrenaline and against one wall was a slide show accompanied by blaring music. I headed to the rest room after visiting registration and saw a long line of of women waiting patiently. The men’s room line went quickly and soon I was back to my family in the gym.

My fuel of choice for the race was GU Roctane and as it got closer to race time, I had some Ghiradelli 72% cocoa dark chocolate to top me off. I’d just run into my friend Steve who was running with me and I gave him some chocolate for a pre-race boost. Steve had his wife and their two little ones at the race and everyone was in good spirits despite the cold, wet weather.

We lined up fairly close to the start line to get a good take-off position. Steve and I learned a lesson last year when we were forced into a narrow path between the snow and parked cars. That situation produced so much crowding that we could barely exceed a trot for the first couple of minutes.

A fast start as the snow came down

Before too long, we were off and running. My Garmin had gone into energy saver mode so I wasn’t able to start my timing until I’d run a few hundred feet. Once that was resolved, I focused on staying with a fast crowd of front runners who I’d hoped would sweep me up and carry me along.

My friend Steve disappeared into the crowd almost immediately and I figured I’d see him at the turnaround or at the finish line. The group surrounding me was running at a faster pace than I could sustain, but I did my best and hoped to pass the first mile one under 8:20. When I saw the timing clock I was amazed to see that I’d actually clocked 7:54 for mile one.

I must have passed Steve just before that point because he told me later that he came through around 8:05. My goal was to preserve as much of that first mile pace as I could, and I settled into a rhythm that I thought I could maintain throughout the race. My splits were 7:54, 8:43, 8:34 and 8:39. I bounced around a little, but I didn’t suffer from progressively positive splits as I’ve done in the past.

It’s a nice crowd of runners who participate in these Long Beach races. None of that obnoxious posturing I’ve seen other places. That isn’t to say this crowd is any less competitive. If anything, I think this race fields a deeper pool of speedy runners than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Having run this course last year, I knew what to expect in terms of progress and effort. I ran hard but I probably could have pushed more into the middle miles. I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish strongly and I’m pleased with the way things turned out.

Once I passed two miles, I reminded myself that I had less than half the distance to go. The rate of people who passed me had slowed down to the point where I was running mostly with those who ran about my pace. I used the guy in front of me as a pacer through most of the last mile. Once I saw the finish chute, about three blocks in the distance, I dropped a gear and gave it my best of the day.

As I approached the finish line I could see my wife and kids cheering me on, but the clock atop the chute was reading 16:00, so I feared that the timing system wasn’t working. My Garmin showed that I’d come in under 34 minutes, so I knew I’d done well. It turned out that the actual race clock was positioned low and to the left, so I’d missed it.

I assumed Steve had already finished, but discovered that he hadn’t yet come through. He came crossed the line about a minute later – an impressive effort for someone who hadn’t really run much over the prior few months. We went back to the gym to see our results posted and I saw that I’d crossed the line in 33:50, for a pace of 8:28 and a new PR.

Steve and I went back out and watched the runners streaming across the line while the snow continued to fall. I had been concerned that the wet surface would be too slippery for my Hattori’s, but that wasn’t an issue. However, the shoe’s lack of insulation was a big issue and I couldn’t feel my toes for most of the race. I’ll have to remember that the next time I wear them in cold, wet conditions.

So, my first race of 2012 went very well and I’m enjoying the great feeling that comes from a sustained effort like a race. I’ll probably go out for a very easy run tomorrow and start thinking about my strategy for my next two races, one short (5K) and the other long (13.1 miles). In the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the moments from today’s events.

Race report: 2011 New Hyde Park 8K

An 8K PR for the ER

Today’s run (New Hyde Park 8K): 5 miles at 8:40/mile

As they say, the third time’s the charm and that was the case for me after today’s race. I had hopes of beating my prior finish time of 44:42 that I ran in both 2009 and 2010 and I certainly did that. Last year I went out much slower than the prior year and picked up my pace later in the race. That resulted in a better experience than 2009 (when I went into energy debt by mile 4) but my time ended up exactly the same. But that’s ancient history — the better story is today’s race.

TEAM EMERGING RUNNER

Form doesn’t always follow fashion

Although my wife and kids try to join me at every race, for some reason they could not attend prior to this year. It was a great psychological bonus to have them with me today. We arrived early and were able to park at the school, unlike last year when I needed to park some blocks away. I saw many familiar faces, this is very much a running club race, and I knew that it would be a fast field. The scene was familiar and, per tradition, the race tee was, umm, aesthetically interesting. But it is 100% polyester so I can run in it.

Registration was well organized, as usual

PRE-RACE PREP
We watched the mini run for kids and then made our way towards the starting line. I was feeling good and my Hattori’s felt light on my feet and ready to race. What had started out as a cool and cloudy morning had turned sunny. Thankfully, it still wasn’t all that hot. I took a GU Roctane gel 30 minutes before the start. I also carried a small bottle of water in case I needed to refuel near the end of the race and wanted some hydration along with the gel.

Off and running

START
We started on time with a field of almost 300 runners. I hit start on the Garmin 210 and took off quickly, happy to see my family on the sidelines. I felt good knowing that I’d see them again in about 45 minutes. I had prepared well for this race — two day’s prior rest, a reasonable taper, core exercises the day before, my favorite gel in my system and adequate hydration before the start. Plus my excellent Craft running shirt and those Hattori’s.

THE RACE
When my Garmin chirped at mile one it took me by surprise. Interestingly, the FR 210 indicated that mile a few 100ths sooner than the official mile station. I’ve been a little suspicious of the measurement of this course because my Garmin FR 50 and 60 always over counted and my prior mapping of the course on Google Earth put it a tick longer than 5 miles. Since the GPS never over counts it makes me wonder a bit.

More importantly, I felt great after mile one and that continued as we headed north on New Hyde Park Road. Mile two comes along the service road on the LIE and I found myself passing people instead of being passed (as was my experience last year). I was still feeling strong at the third mile and decided that I didn’t need an additional gel to get me through the duration. By mile four I knew I was on track to beat my prior time but knew I still had another mile to cover. I went against instinct and surged on the uphills, surprised to find I still had energy when I got to the top.

When we turned into the neighborhood that backs the school I knew I just needed to maintain a decent pace to finish under nine minutes a mile. I was feeling good until a race volunteer yelled “Just over half a mile to the finish!” For some reason that made it seem like I had more distance to run than was in my head but I knew that soon it would be less than a half a mile.

THE FINISH
I finally saw the yellow street sign and green lawn of the school a few hundred feet ahead. At that point a young woman pulled beside me and said “This is it” before dropping into gear and leaving me in the dust. I kept up my charge and when I hit the lawn I sprinted toward the finish line. I noticed my son and daughter running on the sidelines in my direction and I looked for my wife who was getting ready to photograph me crossing the line. It was the first time I ever got a picture of me finishing that race (top photo).

My Garmin recorded the race as 5.05 miles and I’ll take a look at the route it captured when I upload it on Garmin Connect. I knew I beat my prior time and was really happy to see that I achieved a pace that I’d even consider good for a 5K. After grabbing some water and walking off some post race energy I checked the posted times and verified that I had a new PR.


EMERGING RUNNER COMMUNITY
I was very happy to meet another runner, Paul (below right), who told me that he’s an Emerging Runner reader. Paul was running in Saucony Mirages and they worked for him, helping him to a sub 7:00/mile finish. Amazingly, Paul had raced the previous day and he told me that he races about once a week. No wonder he’s so fast! I was really glad he stopped to talk and I’ll look for him at other races, but I know I won’t be able to keep up with him once the gun goes off.

Two runners: one fast, one emerging

I’m very pleased with today’s race for so many reasons. It was my best race performance this year and it reinforced to me that my training and preparation are on track. I loved the Hattori’s and I don’t want to run in anything else now. I don’t have any more races on the calendar until the Dirty Sock in August but I’m tempted to find a 5K to run in July.